Using OData for dynamic, customized reporting: Austin Fossey Q&A
Posted by Joan Phaup
We’ll be exploring the power of the Open Data Protocol (OData) and its significance for assessment and measurement professionals during the Questionmark 2014 Users Conference in San Antonio March 4 – 7.
Austin Fossey, our reporting and analytics manager, will explain the ins and outs of using the Questionmark OData API, which makes it possible to access assessment results freely and use third-party tools to create dynamic, customized reports. Participants in a breakout session about the OData API, led by Austin along with Steve Lay, will have the opportunity to try it out for themselves.
I got some details about all this from Austin the other day:
What’s the value of learning about the OData API?
The OData API gives you access to raw data. It’s an option for accessing data from your assessment results warehouse without having to know how to program, query databases or even host the database yourself. By having access to those data, you are not limited to the reports Questionmark provides: You can do data merges and create your own custom reports.
OData is really good for targeting specific pieces of info people want. The biggest plus is that it doesn’t just provide data access. It provides a flow of data. If you know the data you need and you want to set up a report, a spreadsheet, or just have it in the web browser, you can get those results updated as new data become available. This flow of data is what makes OData reports truly dynamic, and this is what distinguishes OData reports from reports that are built from manually generated data exports.
What third-party tools can people use with the OData API?
Lots! Key applications include Microsoft Excel PowerPivot, Tableau, the Sesame Data Browser, SAP Business Objects and Logi Analytics, but there are plenty to choose from. People can also do their own programming if they prefer. The Odata.org website includes a helpful listing of the OData ecosystem, which includes applications that generate and consume OData feeds.
Can you share some examples of custom reports that people can create with OData?
We have some examples of OData reportlets on our Open Assessment Platform website for developers, which also includes some tutorials. I’ve blogged about using the OData API to create a response matrix and to create a frequency table of item keys in Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel. There are so many different ways to use this!
What about merging data from assessments with data from other sources? What are some scenarios for doing that?
It could be any research where you want to cross-reference your assessment data with another data source. If you have another data set and were able to identify participants – say an HR database showing the coursework people have done – you could compare that with their test results to their course activity Reports don’t necessarily have to be about test scores. They can be about items and answer choices – anything you want.
Tell me about the hands-on element of this breakout session.
We will be working through a fairly simple example using Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel in order to cement the concepts of using OData. We’re encouraging people to bring their laptops with Excel and the PowerPivot add-in already installed. If they don’t have that, they can either work with someone else or watch the exercise onscreen. We will provide a handout explaining everything so they can try this when they are back at work.
What do you want people to take away from this breakout?
We want to make sure people know how to construct an OData URL, that they understand the possibilities of using OData but also the limitations. It won’t be a panacea for everything. We want to be sure they know they have another tool in their tool box to answer the research questions or business questions they encounter day to day.
Our conference keynote speaker, Learning Strategist Bryan Chapman, will share insights about OData and examples of how organizations are using it during his presentation on Transforming Data into Meaning and Action.